After setting up the perfect foundations for a long-lasting career in law, Tyson Kraft one day decided to just drop everything to travel the world and learn more about music production. Since then, he’s been all around America and Asia experimenting with different sounds, learning about song writing, and networking within the music industry. This year however, the 25-year-old has decided to come back home to Australia to further his tertiary studies with a post-graduate degree in mass media and communication, while fine tuning his new learned skills in electronic dance music production.
A couple of days after the release of his debut single “Ghost” featuring Peter White from The Voice Australia 2014, we sat down with Tyson Kraft to talk all about his inspirations, struggles and what it’s like to try and break into the very competitive industry of EDM as an unsigned independent artist.
How would you describe your music?
Genre-wise, it’s sort of a mix of future bass, electronic and hip-hop influenced.
Do you have any specific musicians that you look up to?
Yeah absolutely. Sort of varies but in my childhood growing up in the ‘90s, I was influenced a lot by Jeff Buckley, Nirvana, Silverchair and a lot of punk rock that emerged from that era. They’re definitely music that’s quite a step away from the music that I make, but I think it was important in establishing that initial interest and passion in music.
In high-school I started really getting into hip-hop as well. My friends and I would listen to a lot of Nas, early Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls and Tupac, and that’s when I really started to get interested in making beats.
Why did you choose to go with EDM?
I never want to pigeon-hole myself into making strictly electronic music. My production right now is definitely electronic based, in a sense that it’s all electronically produced sounds. The reason for that is that there’s endless possibilities with what you can manipulate, what you can tweak and what you can do in the realm of electronic music, which I think makes it such an attractive proposition. But I never want to say that I’m always going to be an EDM producer. The way in which I want my productions to be seen is as something that brings different genres together. I just want to be guided by what I feel and where my experiences lead me.
How would you describe your song-writing process?
Very organic. Often songs come to me when I’m just on the cusp of falling asleep. It’s a really frustrating thing but when I’m just semi-conscious, about to drift off to sleep, I’d then have this idea and I just have to record it. Then I get my phone and either hum it or sing it and save the idea like that. At other times, I’ll lock myself up in the studio and try to force out an idea. It’s not the most conducive way of making music and being creative, but I think a combination of discipline and organic imagination or creativity is a really important thing. I think you need to remain dedicated and give yourself some sort of schedule as a producer, so that you remain accountable to yourself and to your releases.
Do you write your own lyrics?
My initial songs were far more instrumental and experimental. At the time, I was just hoping to get a greater sense of what kind of sound I wanted to make. From now on though, all of my songs will be accompanied by vocals. Ghost was the first proper song in that sense, and yeah I wrote the lyrics for that.
What was the inspiration behind Ghost?
It was just a combination of all the experiences I had from traveling around the world last year. I went to New York, spent some time in California, then I went and lived in Asia for almost a year. I just wanted to produce something that I could have as a remembrance of those experiences. The subject matter is not necessarily tied to those experiences but I wanted something that would embody and memorialise 2015 for me. Ghost is not a reference to an individual person.
The subject matter of the song is like a broken love story I guess. It’s written from the perspective of let’s say a man talking about a woman, and the reference to ghost is really a metaphor for being emotionally vacant in a relationship. And that metaphor was actually something that I was applying to myself…I think I can be quite emotionally vacant as a person sometimes. So It was a special song for me to write. It was a self-reflective process written in a way that allows other people to connect with it as well.
How did you come to collaborate with Peter White?
Pete is one of my best friends. We’ve always talked about doing music together but it wasn’t until last year that we really got serious about it. Initially we were going to do a cover song but then I had a conversation with my grandma, and she’s someone who’s particularly influential in my life and she suggested that we just release an original. She asked me “Why do you want to do a cover?” and it got me thinking…and I just said fuck it, we’ll do an original.
You mention your grandma a lot in interviews, why does she have such a special place in your heart?
When I was growing up, she was sort of like a second mum to me. Of course I love my mum and my dad but grandma had a really involved participation in my upbringing. Particularly in my childhood and adolescent years. So I feel like a lot of who I am and who I’ve become can be attributed to her and the values she’s taught me. So I feel that because of that, it’s only right for me to give her some level of involvement in my life. So that relationship with my grandma is very important and special for me.
You’ve spent most of 2015 DJing in Manila. Is there a difference between the EDM scene in Manila and Australia?
Yeah, there are differences but there’s also a lot of similarities as well. In terms of club music, Manila seems to be largely guided by the U.S., but I’ve always felt as though Australia has its own unique dance music scene. There’s something very special about it.
How is it being a musician who represents themselves independently without a manager or label?
Oh, a lot of headaches. I just research and figure things out as I go. It’s one of the struggles of being independent. Having to promote and having to do all of the administrative upkeep yourself is enormously challenging and detrimental to the creative process. I’ll be very happy when I find the right family in the future, and sign on with a label.
Do you have any moments of self-conflict when you’re promoting yourself?
Yeah, it’s a real tough balance. I try not to bombard people too hard with my music material. I think that just comes down to how you put the message out. It’s frustrating if you’re making big asks from people and hounding them to listen to your material. So when I talk about my music, I try not to ask for much. I put out my music in a way that makes it easy for the audience. They can either accept it or reject it. Listen to it or ignore it, and I try not to disrupt them too much. It’s just a matter of being courteous online, and trying not to blow your own horn too much too often.
Has the reality of the music business matched the expectations that you had at the start?
I never thought that music was going to be a golden ticket. I always had the expectation that it was going to be a hard process. That was hammered into me by everyone from the industry itself, the media and my family. It’s a one in a million type of thing and even if you do make it, you can be forgotten in a matter of minutes. In the blink of an eye, you can be gone. So my expectations are fairly aligned with reality.
The reality is that I’m an unknown artist, trying to make noise in an already saturated field. I think what can distinguish me and other budding EDM artists is the level of dedication, the commitment to furthering your sound, your knowledge, and staying committed to your goals.
How did you feel before telling your family that you were going to quit law practice to go explore music?
I was initially scared to begin the conversation…because you want to please your family, you want to make them happy and proud…but you also need to enjoy your life and make it meaningful for yourself. And it just felt like I had been doing things for so long to please the hearts and minds of other people, and had not given myself the opportunity to explore the things that made me happy.
My family were not happy. They were pretty shocked, disappointed and it was a long process of getting them to understand…but now they’re very supportive. And I really appreciate that.
Would you say it was worth it?
Yeah 110%. I could not envisage life in any other way than what it is today. I’m pleased that I had the courage to leave a corporate career to pursue a creative one. I really do believe that people have these innate gifts and talents, and whatever they may be, you’re given these gifts for a reason. You have to use them to contribute meaningfully in the world, and that’s how I feel. I feel like I’ve been given something that needs to be shared with the world. That’s what I want to do and I won’t rest until I feel that I’ve accomplished that mission.
How did you feel when you were about to officially release Ghost?
The night before, I didn’t sleep until 6 in the morning. I had so much anxiety, excitement and anticipation. Whenever you put your everything into something, you can’t help but care. It’s like your little baby.
How was it when you started getting positive feedback from people about Ghost?
Wonderful. It makes all of the sleepless nights producing and writing, all the time invested into this one project, it makes it all worth it. Even just to make my friends and family happy is enough of a payoff. Really, it is. That’s how I quantify a successful release.
I’m not too concerned about how many times it gets streamed or how many likes it gets. I’m just concerned with doing something that will make people happy because then it gives me happiness as well.
Who would your dream collaboration be?
Probably Kiiara. I just love her. I love her voice. I love Felix Snow, her producer. The stuff he creates is in a very similar style as my music, so I think we’d be able to create some magic stuff. Also Gordi, I’d love to work with her. She has a phenomenal beautiful voice. One of the best voices in Australia right now I think.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2016?
New music. I also have some shows to announce later this year, but they’re not confirmed yet.
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